[Remember to check the '2010 NFL Draft' section for all stories relating to the draft.]
One thing I am learning as I do these Daily NFL Draft Prospect Profiles is to keep an eye out for under-rated players, or guys who don't begin drawing the attention of NFL Scouts and general managers until the later stages of their college careers.
One such player is Nebraska middle linebacker Phillip Dillard, a 6-foot-1, 245-pound player who came on strong as a senior with the Cornhuskers and has continued to impress during the pre-draft process.
As you will read later, Dillard is a guy being compared favorably with players who are expected to come off the board much earlier than he will. That equates to a late-bloomer who might end up being a late-round steal.
A little bit like Penn State middle linebacker prospect Sean Lee, Dillard has a lengthy injury history. When he has been on the field, though, the numbers indicate that he has been very good.
Let's take a closer look.
Phillip Dillard Scouting Reports
From Consensus Draft Services.
Versatile LB who can stuff the run and play the pass. Solid instincts, negotiates trash and plays the game inside out. Good hitter and sound tackler. Strong and rugged. Runs better than he times and can play sideline-to-sideline. Closes quickly. Solid athlete. ... Not very tall and probably maxed out physically. Not the fastest or most explosive athlete. Lacks the agility for man coverage in the NFL. ... Late-round pick or free agent, but definitely will be in a camp. Given time, could surprise.
He is a short, well built player with good strength and speed for the position. He is an instinctive, tough linebacker who plays with good technique and body positioning. He understands angles and run fits to maintain leverage on the ball. He appears to have better quickness and speed than his body type would indicate, and he has good strength but lacks great pop and power on contact. He is aggressive in pursuit but lacks great lateral agility and change-of-direction to consistently make plays in space. Dillard was a good defender in his senior season and has the raw talent to eventually develop into a solid linebacker at the next level.
From Fantasy Football Toolbox.
When he has been healthy, he has been a big part of the Nebraska defense. ... It is the injuries that are keeping Dillard down. He did have a decent NFL Combine and improved his stock a little bit more with a solid pro day. Yet, the injury question keeps coming back. He has the experience and talent of a Donald Butler or Jamar Chaney, who are considered probable third-round selections, but he will likely fall to at least the fourth round.
Why Dillard fits with the Giants
Because you are not always able to fill your needs in the first round or two of the draft. Sometimes the right players just aren't there, so you go in another direction and look to fill a need later. A player like Dillard might give the Giants the option of doing that at middle linebacker. If they truly like Jonathan Goff enough to give him a shot at the middle linebacker spot, a player like Dillard could be a solid option to at least provide an alternative.
Why the Giants should pass
Because middle linebacker is a huge need for the Giants and there are quite a few players more likely to be sure things as quality NFL players. Hopefully, when it is time for Dillard to come off the board the Giants have already addressed this position.
(E-mail Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Big Blue View on Twitter.)